US car giant General Motors increased its European market share from from 9.7% to 10.2% in January, thereby bucking the sales trend of its continental rivals and posting an increase of 4.2% in new car registrations.

The January numbers, compiled by the European Automobile Manufacturers Association, show Ford Motor Company sales down by 5.2%; and even the mighty Toyota registered a 1.2% slippage. But this decline was a mere blip alongside Italian carmaker Fiat whose sales plummeted 19%, while troubled German luxury car manufacturer Mercedes reported a 9.4% drop. Compatriot rival BMW reported better news, with core brand sales rising nearly 4%.

GM's progress, though welcome, may owe more to incentives offered by dealers than European zeal for its products, although this is denied by European sales and marketing vp Jonathan Browning who says incentives were not a significant factor.

This year is crucial to the company's efforts to turn round its European operations, which have not shown a profit since 1999. GM is cutting 10,000 jobs in Germany and is looking to next month's Geneva Auto Show to showcase its Cadillac and Chevy brands.

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff